Friday, November 15, 2019

Mr. Potatohead

"It looks like a potato with legs". That's what Di said when she saw a photo of an Antpitta. You can be the judge.

Antpittas are a group of birds that make their living on the forest floor. They are most often heard but not seen. One of the best places to see Antpittas is in Ecuador at Refugio Paz de Las Aves (Peace of the Birds Sanctuary). The reason that this place is so special is because of this Angel. No really, Angel is his name. Angel is a farmer who figured out that he can make better money showing people Antpittas than actually farming.

Selfie with Angel Paz
He trains the birds to come out of the forest when he calls so that they can get a delicious meal of worms.
Yummy Antpitta Breakfast
Angel calls the birds by name - "Will-a-meeeee-na, Will-a-meeeeeeee-na" as he throws the worms out on a moss-covered log just off the forest path. "Will-a-meeeeee-na" and sure enough, the bird emerges from the dark forest.

Yellow-breasted Antpitta
She's a beauty and allows us to photograph her while she dines. She gobbles up the last worm and disappears back into the forest until tomorrow. Angel leads us to another path. "Sha-keeeee-ra, Sha-keeeee-ra". Same dance, different bird. Viola. Shakira appears for her breakfast.

Ochre-breasted Antpitta
Angel calls her Shakira because she moves like Shakira that singer. Watch how she wiggles.

The don't all have names. Angel used to have a Giant Antpitta called Maria but sadly the bird died after 15 years of fame. He calls out into the forest with a whistle that mimics the bird's call. Another bird emerges. 

Chestnut-crowned Antpitta
She's striking and doesn't seem to mind the paparazzi. We also saw a very secretive Moustached Antpitta. Angel asked us not to photograph the shy bird so that we didn't scare him away so no photos of him. 

After showing us the Antpittas, Angel invited us to the pavilion where his wife served coffee and Bolon de Verdes which are green plantain fritters. They were delicious! We ate our meal while watching some of the amazing hummingbirds featured in the last post. 

We saw 2 other Antpittas on our trip. This Tawny Antpitta accompanied us along our trail at Yanacoacha. 

Tawny Antpitta
And we found this Streak-breasted Antpitta in the rain forest at Playa de Oro. This one was the most wild of the bunch. I barely managed to get a photograph. 

Streak-breasted Antpitta
More birds and critters to follow. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Ecuador - Hummingirds

Ecuador is located in South America and as the name suggests is on the equator. Our gang just returned from a 10 day trip to explore the birds and nature of the country. We signed up for the trip last November so it was a long wait. The trip itinerary included a few days in the Andes mountains where we spent time in various locations and then ended with 4 days in the "Choco" region at a remote lodge.

The itinerary indicated that we could see as many as 600 bird species on the trip. We ended up seeing 360 species. 232 of those were life birds for me. There were so many birds that I have decided to break them up into multiple posts. This post concentrates on just the hummingbirds. The field guide lists 134 species possible - 134! We have exactly 1 specie here in Pennsylvania.

Our trip started on Sat Nov 2nd in Quito which is the capital of Ecuador and located at 9,340 feet elevation and  -0.20562° N latitude, -78.5088° E longitude. Our first stop was to a preserve called Yanacocha which is at 12,000 feet elevation. Joco Toco Conservation Fund helps to protect the area. It was pretty cool at this elevation. We needed jackets for sure. 

Who knew that we could find such cool birds and hummingbirds at such high elevation! 

The first hummer that I saw was this cinnamon colored bird called Shining Sunbeam. 

Shining Sunbeam
Its a cute bird but I didn't understand why it was called Shining Sunbeam until it turned around.

Shining Sunbeam
It should really be called "Rainbow Butt". Look at how it shines in the sunlight!

Next up, a little hummer called Golden-breasted Puffleg. Check out the white puffs on the legs. This dude was itching for a fight with any other hummer that flew past him. 

Golden-breasted Puffleg - ready for action
The most common hummer at Yanacocha was the Buff-winged Starfrontlet. What a name. 

Buff-winged Starfrontlet
And then my eyes almost popped out of my head when this bird arrived at the feeders. This is Sword-billed Hummingbird. Look at the size of that bill! It is designed to get nectar from really big flowers. He must have really good aim to get his bill in the feeder hole at that distance

Sword-billed Hummingbird
There were many other birds at this site but for now, just hummers. On Sunday, we headed out to a remote farm in the Andes located at lower elevation to see some amazing birds which I will tell you about in another post. The farmer has hummingbird feeders hanging around the pavilion where we had coffee and a delicious snack that his wife prepared. Here are some of the hummers from this site.

Andean Emerald isn't stunning but still really cute. This guy ruled the roost.

Andean Emerald
This Purple-bibbed Whitetip is aptly named. You can see both the bib and the white tips.

Purple-bibbed Whitetip
In the diminutive category, nothing beats this tiny Purple-throated Woodstar. She flies like a bumblebee!
Purple-throated Woodstar
Hermits are category of hummingbirds that have long curved bills. Here is White-whiskered Hermit coming in for some sugar water.

White-whiskered Hermit
In the afternoon, we headed to our 3rd hotel in 3 days. The hotel reminded me of an out-of-date Pocono lodge filled with dark wood paneling and smelling moldy. Our rooms were decorated in a Victorian theme with lacy pillow cases and valences around the bed posts. Not what I expected in Ecuador. Luckily, the hotel had some hummingbird feeders that attracted some amazing birds.

Of all of the hummers that I wanted to see, this Booted Racket-tail topped the list. I can't even!

Booted Racket-tail
Look at those "boots"!

Booted Racket-tail
This Violet-purple Coronet was a handsome devil - and I think he knows it too.

Violet-purple Coronet
The coup-de-gras of all hummers at this location had to be Violet-tailed Sylth. The bird has a really long tail which you may be able to see in this photo. He also has brilliant turquoise stripe on his head and purple throat patch that shines when the light hits it.

Violet-tailed Sylth
That's all great but it is nothing like the full Monty! Here he is showing off the crazy shining long tail. It was truly something to behold.
Violet-tailed Sylth
I'll stop there for now. We saw other hummingbirds throughout the 10 day excursion but it gets overwhelming after a while.